CM . . .
. Volume XVI Number 8. . . .October 23, 2009
Through an innocent young boy’s questions and his grandfather’s delightful, yet truthful, answers, readers will be treated to a tenderly, but simply told story of his “Poppa’s” experiences and feelings about war. The interaction between the two generations allows the story to be told in a meaningful and engaging way to a very young audience.
As the curious grandson questions his grandfather about why he went to war and what it was like to be in the military, the tone and illustrations at first are lighthearted, with his poppa explaining that he was “proud as a peacock.” In response to the little one’s concern that he must have been lonely, his grandfather explains that they were “busy as beavers.”
But the mood becomes more sombre and serious as the grandson helps his poppa put on his medals, and both grandfather and grandson pin on their poppies. As the crowd gathers for a march of veterans, both young and old, the little one shows his respect for the proceedings by stating, “I am quiet as a mouse, as quiet as that.”
Laying a wreath brings tears to Grandpa and truly affects his grandson (“I can almost touch the ache”) who listens solemnly as his grandpa states how important it is to remember. The young boy offers the idea that elephants never forget. His poppa responds, “Then let’s be elephants.”
Barcaly has taken on an important topic in an effective and touching way. Her poignant story introduces the young to the meaning of war and Remembrance Day as seen through the eyes of a little boy. Being able to share such a story is especially relevant as more Canadian soldiers are involved in current wars. There is a lovely rhythm to the prose that would make this a perfect choice by parents and teachers to read-aloud. The text is complemented beautifully with Benoit’s artwork rendered in watercolours and gouache. The gentle wash of colours is soft and expressive, with the red poppies making an impression. Illustrations depicting today are interspersed with pictures in sepia tones of soldiers, ships, fighting and letters that capturs the ambience of a time, long ago.
Reesa Cohen is a retired Instructor of Children’s Literature and Information Literacy at the Faculty of Education, University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.